Bill would end paddling in last of Kentucky schools

Corporal punishment, or paddling, which is legal in Kentucky public schools, would be prohibited under a bill introduced in the General Assembly by Rep. Jim Wayne.

School administrators, teachers and other staff, and school districts would be prohibited from using corporal punishment under House Bill 393.

Corporal physical discipline under the legislation means “the deliberate infliction of physical pain and does not include spontaneous physical contact which is intended to protect a child from immediate danger.”

Currently, each school district makes its own decision about corporal punishment. The local district, rather than the Kentucky Department of Education, sets the code of conduct and the discipline policy for students in each school operated by the district. Paddling is not allowed in Fayette County Public Schools.

Corporal punishment is fading as a disciplinary method in Kentucky public schools, dropping from 3,075 incidents in 2005 to 517 in 2015-2016, according to the latest available data.

About 25 school districts used corporal punishment last year, including Bell, Pike, Clinton, Pulaski and McCreary counties.

In Bell County, parents of misbehaving students often request that their children be paddled instead of getting suspended and losing time in the classroom, a school official told the Herald-Leader last year.

Wayne, D-Louisville, said he filed the bill at the request of students in his district who had attended a mock government program called Kentucky Youth Assembly. Legislation prohibiting corporal punishment passed in the mock government program, Wayne said.

Students are gathering in the Capitol rotunda in Frankfort at 9 a.m. Feb. 28 to rally for the bill, Wayne said.

Wayne, a psychotherapist, said he had worked in schools for years and thinks that corporal punishment is not effective.

“Corporal punishment gives the wrong message to children in how to manage their impulses and their behavior,” he said.

The bill also establishes that church-related privately operated child-caring agencies or homes are prohibited from using corporal physical discipline.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears